Chess enthusiasts across the word will have their eyes riveted on India which will host the 44th Chess Olympiad at Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, from July 28.
The tournament will witness more than 2,000 players from 182 countries, which happens to be the largest field ever in a chess tournament in the world. Incidentally, India was asked to host this holy grail of chess team championships, after the world chess body FIDE stripped Russia of hosting the tournament, as a result of its military operations in Ukraine.
India has had a galaxy of chess players like Viswanathan Anand, P Harikrishna, and Koneru Humpy, all of whom have won international laurels. Anand is by far our greatest player having won a record five World Championships titles besides a plethora of international titles. Anand, 52, is clearly not at his best now but is still recognised as the worldwide ambassador of the sport.
India is the county where chess is supposed to have orginated. The 64 squares- based game was the passion of ancient Indian kings and the game became so popular that even the common man played it. A Bollywood potboiler, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, has also been based on the theme of chess—thus proving the integral role the game played in the Indian psyche.
It was, therefore, in the fitness of things that Prime Minister Narendra Modi set alight the torch of Chess Olympiad in Delhi on June 18 as a symbolic ushering in of the chess revolution in the land of the origin of the game. The Chess Olympiad torch will pass through many cities before reaching Mahabalipuram .
That India has emerged as a chess powerhouse is proved by the excellent performance of the men’s and women’s teams in the last two editions of the Olympiad. (Incidentally, the last two editions were held online due to the coronavirus pandemic).
The highlight of this year’s Olympiad is the presence of Magnus Carlssen. The six- time World Champion will be spearheading Norway’s challenge in the Olympiadafter six long years. Also, there is another reason why he likes Tamil Nadu for it was in Chennai in 2013 that he defeated home favourite Viswanathan Anand to win the world title. That win proved to be a gamechanger for Magnus as he went on to win a record number of world titles and firmly establish himself as one of the greats of the game.
“Chennai and South India have a special place in my heart,” Magnus was quoted in the Norwegian Star. He said he was happy to return to the place where he had tasted his first real success.
On the other hand, Viswanathan Anand has opted not to play in this event. “I have been playing very little tournaments of late and want to give chance to my younger compatriots who I feel are very talented,” said Anand.
He was also of the view that organising an event like the Chess Olympiad would do a world of good for the up and coming chess players of the country. “Hosting an event of the magnitude of the Olympiad will have a great influence on young chess players in the country. It will prove to be a shot for the youngsters in the country,” Anand opined.
On his part, Bharat Singh Chauhan, the tournament director of the Chess Olympiad, said that preparations were on in a war-footing to have the tournament organised in the best possible manner. “We have blocked 3,000 rooms in the five-star hotels and have made all arrangements to ensure that the players and officials get the best facilities,” he said.